Fourth wave coffee is here and it’s rivaling coffeeshop culture, says Mintel

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Third-wave coffee, characterized by ‘craft’ brewing techniques and a hyper-focus on quality, has dominated the coffee scene since it first became popular in the late 2000s/early 2010s following the rise of coffeeshop chains such as Starbucks that introduced US consumers to lattes, cappuccinos, and other specialty coffees drinks, said Mintel.

“Third-wave coffee’s focus on quality was, in part, a backlash to the highly flavored, commercialized drinks synonymous with second-wave coffee,”writes​ Caleb Bryant, associate director of food & drink at Mintel. 

Now entering a new phase, the fourth wave coffee movement is maintaining some of the keystones of its predecessors but injecting some fun and entertainment into the mix, notes Bryant.

“Fourth-wave coffee will be characterized by cool brews, bottom-up innovation, and a new approach to coffee marketing. Quality will certainly remain important to consumers, and coffee enthusiasts will still treat themselves to pour-over coffee, however, expect to see more brands take a less serious approach to coffee.”

Bringing the coffeeshop home

Unlike second- and third-wave coffee, where coffee shops played a central role in consumers’ coffee drinking experience, fourth-wave coffee will revolve around the home, according to Bryant.

“Many consumers upgraded their home coffee bars during the pandemic in response to the closure of coffee shops and mandated work-from-home policies​.”

In fact, Mintel research shows that a third of remote workers own a single-cup coffee brewer (e.g. Nespresso) compared to a quarter of non-remote workers. Additionally, 20% of remote workers own a pour-over coffee set compared to less than 10% of non-remote workers.

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